What the Data Say About Civil War Monuments

by Phillip W. Magness
The American Institute for Economic Research

The long-simmering controversy over Confederate symbolism in the Southern United States has boiled over in the wake of anger over police brutality against African-Americans, obliterating any notion that overcoming America’s tragic past of slavery and segregation is no longer relevant today. Longstanding calls on government officials to remove statues associated with pro-slavery figures have given way to protest-fueled iconoclasm–statues and monuments once protested are now defaced and toppled in convulsive anger.

In the immediate wake of this anger lies a fork in the road. Many purporting to speak in the name of fighting racism present the monument controversy as a cut and dry issue. The dead end of mutual recrimination to which this choice leads is already clear. Applauding mob violence leads to indiscriminate attacks increasingly dissociated with any historical context.

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